Massachusetts Vital Records

Massachusetts Vital Records

The Office of Vital Records is responsible for maintaining all state-level vital records created, administered and maintained by the state of Massachusetts regarding a person’s most important life events. These records include such documents as birth certificates, marriage licenses, and death certificates and are compiled and stored in permanent central registry state entities uses to develop statistical analysis of its population.

Birth Records

A birth certificate is a vital record that documents the birth of a child. The term "birth certificate" can refer to either the original document certifying the birth or to a certified copy or representation of the original document.  The state of Massachusetts divides the birth records catalog into three categories based on the sources and timeline the information was/ is collected, which includes: pre-1850, 1841-1920 and 1921-present.  The birth records from the first category were arranged in alphabet order gathered from town, city and county registers. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts was the first state to create statewide vital records in the modern sense starting in 1841, but it was compiled with only by the year of 1850. The state collected birth records from this period as early as 1850.  In 1900 all birth records were gathered and register in state index, the state keeps the records at the Registry of Vital Records and Statistics.

Death Records

A death record is most likely a copy of the information contained in a person’s death certificate. The state of Massachusetts manages death records in the following categories: pre-1850, 1841-1920 and 1920-present. All records in the pre-1850 and 1841-1920 categories were collected from church, town and city registers, which has acquired microfilmed copies of the original records from many counties. The records are collected annually from Massachusetts State Archives and are made available through the New England Historic Genealogical Society and to the Family History Library.

Marriage/Divorce Records

A marriage/divorce record is issued by a government official only after civil registration of the marriage/divorce occurs. The state of Massachusetts organizes marriage/divorce records into three categories based on the sources the information was/is collected from, which includes pre-1850, 1841-1920 and 1921-present. The first law that required the recording of marriages was passed in 1841, though each county was keeping its own register catalogs. Each county usually kept these records as soon as it was organized, so all records from the first category were collected from county clerks offices. All records collected from the beginning of 1920 are indexed.  Divorce records have been handled by the probate court system since 1922 and commonly filed where the couple last lived together. From 1786 to 1887, all cases were administered through the Supreme Judicial Court. All these records are held at the Judicial Archives in the Massachusetts Archives facility. The earliest divorce records are scattered through a variety of courts which held joint jurisdiction. The records are kept at the Registry of Vital Records and Statistics.

Why Vital Records are Available to the Public?

In 1851, the Massachusetts State Legislature passed a law named the Massachusetts Public Records Law. The first statutory provision was enacted in 1851 and established the public’s right to access governmental documents. Revisions in the 1970s expanded public access to all documents that were not exempt by narrowly construed exceptions. It aims to ensure disclosure of court records and other public records to the public: Chapter 66: Public Records. Every person throughout the state can request access to access all public records through the assigned specialized offices within its determined terms.

What Does Vital Records Access mean to You?

The law is similar to the Massachusetts Open Meeting Law legislates the methods by which public meetings are conducted at the Massachusetts Public Records Law intent is that all records maintained by state and local government entities be available for public access and copying. It is located at Part I, Title X, Chapter 66 of the Massachusetts General Laws.


Massachusetts State Archives

State Archives

Contact: (857) 214-2180

Results Include

Full State Record Report:

  • Name
  • Location
  • Case Number
  • Case Summary
  • Docket
  • Police Report
  • Court Documents
  • Legal Records
  • Case File
  • Statements
  • Transcripts
  • Legal Forms
  • Case Notes
  • Disposition
  • Trial Records
  • Arbitration
  • Case Evidence
  • Witnesses
  • Interviews
  • Descriptions
  • Mugshots
  • Charges
  • Legal Motions
  • Attorney Records
  • Prosecution Records
Massachusetts Bristol County Courthouse 1826

Massachusetts Bristol County Courthouse 1826

  • State Archives holds over 35,000 cubic feet of records.
  • There are 2 levels of Courts: trial and appellate.
  • Superior Court has exclusive original jurisdiction in first-degree murder cases and original jurisdiction for all other crimes.
  • District Courts are often called “The People’s Court.” There are 62 separate courts and buildings.
  • The highest Court in Massachusetts is Massachusetts Supreme Court. It was established in 1692 and is the oldest appellate court in continuous existence in the Western Hemisphere.
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